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Aftermath of the battle of Fort Donelson
in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Casualties of Ft. Donelson Battle Honored At Last

In an article published in the 18 May 2001 edition of the Progressive of Montgomery County, weekly newspaper, Wallace Cross, Professor Of History And Philosophy, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee, details the aftermath of the battle of Fort Donelson in Clarksville and the later relocation of 127 burial remains.

 
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Clarksville, Tennessee in 1861 was a prosperous river town-of some 4,500 people located at the confluence of the Red and Cumberland rivers. When Southern troops fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861, bringing on the American Civil War, the town's sentiments lay with the Confederacy. After the fall of Fort Donelson in February of 1862 to Union forces; many of the Confederate casualties resulting from the conflict at Donelson were brought to Clarksville for medical treatment, such as it was.

Clarksville did not have adequate medical facilities to treat the number of sick and wounded it was receiving. The town received its first wounded when two steamboats arrived on the weekend following the fell of Donelson, bearing their grisly cargo. According to one eyewitness account, the decks of the steamers were soaked in blood from the numbers of wounded The Clarksville Female Academy, a boarding and finishing school for young women, was quickly converted into a makeshift hospital to receive the wounded.

There were no military doctors, nurses or hospital attendants in Clarksville. The citizens of the town, in order to meet the crisis, formed a committee empowered to take charge and run the hospital. A local physician, Dr. Joshua Cobb, was appointed superintendent and chief surgeon. Among the committee's other tasks was to solicit charitable donations and procure the necessary supplies. Within a few days of Donelson's surrender, Clarksville and the Academy hospital came under Federal occupation.

The commander of the Federal occupation forces, Colonel Crafts J Wright, reappointed Dr. Cobb as superintendent and chief surgeon The patients were now considered to be prisoners of war. A guard detail was posted at the hospital, and Dr. Cobb was responsible for seeing that those hospital prisoners who took an Oath of allegiance to the Union were paroled.

A number of Clarksville women unselfishly volunteered as full-time nurses for the makeshift hospital. Led by Miss Blanche Lewis, these women included two African-American sisters, Susan and Mary Bibb, and Mrs. Thompkins, Miss Flora Kyle, and a Mrs. Ware. These ladies constantly attended the wounded and dying for many months and Miss Lewis even moved some of the more serious cases to her father's house, which was located on Madison, now the site of the present Gracey Court Apartments. Both Bibb sisters died from diseases contracted while in service at the hospital, and were buried in the Academy garden. Miss Lewis began to compile lists of the wounded and deceased and it is through her efforts that we know the names of most of the deceased soldiers.

Soon after the steamers bearing the wounded arrived in Clarksville, Dr. Cobb and a Mr Jackson went to consult with W. S. McReynolds, a local carpenter, about building coffins for those soldiers who died. Apparently a number of long straight trenches were dug in the garden behind the Academy to receive the dead. The trenches were six feet deep and wide enough for many men to be laid side by side The first trench dug was long enough to receive 95 of the crude pine coffins . Headboards were provided for the names of the deceased. Some men were initially buried only in blankets due to a temporary shortage of coffins. They were later exhumed and reinterred in pine boxes. The Academy garden extended down to a railroad bed. Sometime later the railroad dug up a portion of this ground to build a coalhouse and this, more than likely, disturbed some of the graves. The Academy burial ground was meant to be only a temporary resting place; however, only 127 out of the 305 soldiers buried were ever exhumed and reburied in Riverview Cemetery

On February 8th, 1897, Mr. Oneal, a night watchman for a local business, Keesee and Northington, discovered the exposed bones belonging to the Confederate soldiers who had been buried at the far end of the Academy gardens. The bones were exposed due to a shift in the terrain and were located near the railroad tracks behind the Academy The Leaf-Chronicle called for immediate action, and the local Confederate veteran's organization known as Forbes Bivouac was notified. Under the supervision of Clay Stacker, a former major in the Confederate Army, all the remains that could be found, a total of 127, were removed and permission was granted for them to be reinterred in the City Cemetery, The other 178 soldiers remain at the site where they were originally buried. Time, progress and the shifting of the terrain has hidden their remains likely for ever, but their names are not forgotten,

The new bridge that connects Cumberland Drive with University Avenue partially spans what is thought to be the burial ground. It has been suggested that the bridge be named the Confederate Memorial Bridge in honor of these men. It would be a nice gesture.


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Index
History of
Clarksville
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Clarksville
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Confederate Cemetery
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